Dr. Leaonard Sax, M.D., PH. D, a physician with a large practice in the suburbs of Washington D.C. has done parents and educators alike a great service with his 2009 book, Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
Dr. Sax chronicles the increasing withdrawal of primary and secondary school males from responsibility and from life itself. “I’ve seen hundreds of families,” Sax writes, “where the girls are the smart, driven ones, while their brothers are laid-back and unmotivated. The opposite pattern—with the boy being the intense, successful child while his sister is relaxed and unconcerned about her future—is rare” (pg 4). A few paragraphs later he continues. “But here’s what’s really strange, and new, about this picture: That young man isn’t bothered by his situation. His parents are. His girlfriend, if she hasn’t left him yet, is at least having second thoughts about him. But he’s oblivious to their concerns as he surfs the Net on the computer they’ve provided, or plays video games on the flat-screen television they bought for him.”
Earlier this summer I reviewed Kay Hymowitz’ Manning Up which describes the same phenomenom amongst adult men aged 20-40. Our culture is radically hurting, and the wound is deepening with each passing day.
Sax notes five primary causes. First, he blames our educational system which is primarily geared to a female friendly style of learning. Second, he blames the prevalence and use of video games. “The average teenage boy today spends more than thirteen hours a week playing video games, compared with five hours per week for the average teenage girl” (pg 58). Third, he blames the over-diagnosis of ADHD, and the following prescriptions of Ritalin, etc. After withdrawal from these drugs the average user is often passive for life. Fourth, citing falling sperm counts and increasing bone brittleness in boys, he argues that environmental changes have affected the male endocrine system which produces testosterone. Last, he blames the devaluation and disintegration of the masculine ideal. From my perspective he gets closest with this fifth observation.
While all of these have contributed to the problem, the author ignores the elephant in the room, Feminism. He makes a case for all male High Schools, noting that males do better when they do not have to directly compete with females, but the larger reality seems to escape him. That reality is the same phenomenon in home, church, business, politics, the military, and government.
Many men, when mandated to compete with females simply withdraw. Men don’t want to be females, and they don’t want to be in an environment where they must compete with them. They want to compete with men. They want to identify with men. They want to feel like men. Our culture gives men little opportunity to feel this way.
By contrast, the contemporay script is androgyny, no sex differences in work, task, or funciton. Androgyny does not produce masculinity, i.e. the use of masculine strength in the service of others. It has the opposite affect. Dr. Sax gets close to the issue when he writes, “‘Deconstructing’ all images of the ideal husband and father, is not likely to result in a father who insists on his wife sharing equally in all sacrifices. The result is far more likely to be a selfish young man who doesn’t feel any strong obligation to the children he has fathered. In the United States, more than one in three babies is now born to an unmarried mother (35.7 percent to be exact). The growing trend away from married couples with children cuts across all racial and ethnic boundaries.”
Despite this concern, I highly reccomend this excellent book. It will greatly serve parents, especially fathers, educators, and leaders in the church. Readers will be deeply enriched. Dr. Sax writes simply and directly about a subject that is crucias to each of us.
It is also crucial to the survival of our civilization.
As always, your comments are welcomed.